Federal fund could boost Wyoming's ailing uranium industry
In a budget request, the U.S. Department of Energy asked for $150 million in fiscal year 2021 to build an uranium reserve fund and boost domestic demand.
February 12, 2020
Wyoming’s uranium industry has been decimated by record-low appetite for U.S. uranium. Uranium production nationwide has nose-dived to an over 70-year low as nuclear power companies turn to cheaper international markets.
But some relief could be around the corner for Wyoming, the nation’s leading producer of uranium. In a budget request, the U.S. Department of Energy asked for $150 million in fiscal year 2021 to build an uranium reserve fund and boost domestic demand for the mineral.
Wyoming officials and energy groups have long pressed President Donald Trump to institute new trade policies, like quotas, to intensify domestic demand of uranium. Right now, most utility companies import cheaper uranium from other countries, like Kazakhstan or China, displacing demand for U.S. production of the commodity.
In last year’s third quarter, only about 32,211 pounds of uranium concentrate was produced at four mines in Wyoming. That’s a 94 percent decline since the same quarter in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Though the $150 million in the reserve would not solve the steep challenges facing uranium producers, it could still help, according to Paul Goranson chief operating officer for Energy Fuels, the country’s largest uranium company and a Wyoming operator.
“This buying program was necessary because the uranium industry was literally disappearing,” he said. “Certainly (the funding) is not going to restart all the uranium mines at once, but it does provide demand and it provides demand that is not there right now.”
If approved, the reserve fund could revive production at two uranium mines in the country, according to the Department of Energy.